US Representative John Tierney has begun airing a bitterly negative TV ad against Democratic primary challenger Seth Moulton, in what could be seen as a sign of the congressman’s vulnerability.
The 30-second spot attempts to tie Moulton, a Marine veteran, to Republicans who support the National Rifle Association, oppose abortion rights, and say they’ll “end the Medicare guarantee,” accusations that could be deeply damaging among the Democratic faithful.
The ad started airing Tuesday, a week before the Sept. 9 primary in which the congressman had been seen as having a comfortable lead. But Tierney has been battered by an attack ad from Moulton and is striking back.
Over a black-and-white photo of Moulton and foreboding music, a female narrator says “Moulton took money from a special interest group that only funds Republicans. NRA-backed Republicans who voted to outlaw abortions. Tea partiers who say they’ll end the Medicare guarantee.”
The ad cites a contribution to Moulton from White Mountain PAC, a federal political action committee affiliated with former US senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire.
The narrator continues that Moulton’s “special interest friends” gave money to 67 Republicans, but just one “politician who wants you to believe he’s a Democrat.”
As the text “Republican?” appears on screen, the narrator concludes: “Huh. What do they know that Seth Moulton won’t tell us?”
A Moulton adviser framed the ad as a sign of desperation and said it did not make sense.
“What John Tierney knows is he’s going to lose,” Scott Ferson said. “This is a desperate act that’s not based in fact. He cites one contribution that was returned by the campaign and that somehow makes Moulton a tea partier? It’s a little ridiculous.”
The Moulton campaign said it would hold a press conference Wednesday to refute the ad.
White Mountain PAC’s filings with the Federal Election Commission show a $1,000 donation to Moulton’s campaign on Sept. 19, 2013, and $1,000 returned from the Moulton campaign to the PAC on Feb. 15, 2014.
A voicemail message left on Gregg’s cellphone was not returned.
The PAC has also contributed to a number of US Senate Republicans, such as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, commission filings show.
A Tierney aide noted that some of the Republicans the PAC has supported are strong opponents of abortion, strong supporters of the NRA, and voted in favor of a budget proposed by US Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, which would fundamentally shift the way Medicare works.
It is rare for an incumbent to spend money negatively framing an opponent unless the incumbent is concerned the opponent might pose a real threat.
But a Tierney spokeswoman framed the ad as a simple response to Moulton’s attack, which she said the campaign didn’t intend to let go unanswered.
“Voters deserve to know why a Republican special interest group gave Seth money after giving exclusively to Republicans, including Tea Party extremists, for more than 10 years,” said Lauren Soltani, the spokeswoman.
The campaign of Richard Tisei, the Republican vying for Tierney’s seat, also chimed in on the ad, alluding to questions about the validity of the spot’s attack.
“If John Tierney is willing to say this about his DEMOCRATIC opponent, we can only imagine what sort of lies he will invent about Richard,” Tisei spokesman Charlie Szold said in an e-mail.
Besides Moulton, the other Democrats running against Tierney are immigration lawyer Marisa A. DeFranco, John Patrick Devine of Woburn, and John J. Gutta of Groveland.
The North Shore-anchored congressional district Tierney represents stretches from Bedford to Salisbury to Rockport.
Video courtesy Kantar Media CMAGJoshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.